Executive travel: hotel in Australia's government hub lacks political savvy

QT Canberra is one of the quirkiest in Australia’s political capital

Reception at QT Canberra. Courtesy QT Hotels
Reception at QT Canberra. Courtesy QT Hotels

Back-room deals and golden handshakes are all part of global politics and at the QT Canberra the government theme plays a central role in its appeal.

This 205-room business hotel is one of the quirkiest in Australia’s political capital with its metallic wallpaper-lined lobby featuring prime ministers of days gone by, mirrored paparazzi-themed lifts, and a behind-closed-doors invitation-only business lounge.

Positioned in New Acton, one of Canberra’s hippest suburbs, just a short walk from cafes, restaurants and an independent cinema; the artificial lake in the middle of the city and a five-minute drive from the city centre and Parliament House.

While the building’s exterior is lacking in character, the interiors make up for that with plenty of funky upholstered furniture throughout, a cosy restaurant and bar area, not to mention the colourful portraits of world leaders including Angela Merkel, Kim Jong Un and Theresa May lining the walls, and the life-sized cardboard cutout of former US president Barack Obama.

From all accounts many a dignitary has frequented this property, whether it be to discuss policy or celebrate an election win.

I stay the night after the announcement is made that renowned Australian larrikin PM Bob Hawke has passed away at his home at the age of 89, so it’s quite poignant at check-in that I’m handed a room key with the longest serving Labor Prime Minister’s face emblazoned across it.

Although I arrive at the hotel half an hour after the scheduled check-in time (which is 2pm) the welcome is almost non-existent. Upon entry to the lobby I’m forced to go in search of a front desk staffer to manage the formalities for me and when I finally manage to raise someone and take possession of the key that will let me into my room and the underground garage the card strip proves faulty as I pull up at the gate and I have to make a trip back to reception for a new one.

Fortunately the one-bedroom junior suite I’m booked into is more impressive than the welcome. It has a king bed, an adjoining lounge area with pull-out sofa-bed, two bathrooms, a decent-sized working desk and a small terrace that affords me some pretty decent views of the city’s observation tower, nearby dome-shaped science centre and the popular lake that forms the centre of the city and is named after Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who won a competition to design the city way back when.

Wi-Fi is free and there are plenty of meeting rooms and function facilities to make use of along with a ballroom and several flexible event spaces depending on your needs. “Whether it’s secret meetings behind closed doors, fine dining or social soirees at the end of a busy work day … QT lets you get it done in style,” the hotel media kit spiel reads.

The hotel has five room categories to choose from, from the standard 25-square-metre king room right up to the State Suite - or two-bedroom penthouse - the most luxurious option. The State Suite has its own kitchenette, dining room and living area, laundry, dual bathrooms and balconies with city and lake views.

Queen Room with a view at QT Canberra. Courtesy QT Hotels
Queen Room with a view at QT Canberra. Courtesy QT Hotels

Aside from the locality and the views of the colourful capital that’s home to 390,000 people I’m most impressed by the decadence of the Capitol Bar and Grill restaurant with its ‘dress to impress’ approach, and Lucky’s, the hidden ground-floor lounge that is accessed via the in-house barber. The former acts as the all-day dining restaurant, offering a reasonable AU$29 (Dh74) buffet breakfast - think barista-made coffee, cold cuts, fresh fruits, eggs and pastries - but it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s during the lunch and dinner services that this 240-seat eatery comes into its own. Ideal for doing deals over dinner or having a relaxed meal after a long day, the menu features dishes including a hearty braised beef Pollies Pie (Dh92) and the obligatory Wagyu fillet steak (Dh148). The picks on the lunch menu have to be food director Robert Marchetti’s Tuna Tartare (Dh56) and The Capitol Coney Island steak burger (Dh69).

For those who prefer privacy when business is at stake the hotel’s 15th floor hotel lounge is impressive. Its floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views of the capital combined with designer decor and secluded corner nooks make this the ideal exclusive meeting space but if you’re not one of the 200 or so ‘members’ you’ll need to do a deal with management.

As my stay comes to a close and I prepare to take the three-hour drive back to Sydney I check out with some constructive advice for management, room staff need to be more on it - I wasn’t given a new bathmat, the bins weren’t cleared when the room was refreshed and I had to battle to get hot water and adequate pressure in the shower. Fix these I tell them and you’ll be doing hotel deals aplenty.

Rooms at QT Canberra start from $250 (Dh642) a night, including taxes and Wi-Fi. For more go to www.qthotelsandresorts.com/canberra

The writer was a guest of the hotel

Published: June 28, 2019 07:30 AM


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